I have been attempting to intentionally incorporate mindfulness into my life recently. Partly because I am researching mindfulness in relation to the creative process, and partly because I think it will help me to combat stress. I trained in mindfulness practices throughout my childhood and early adulthood in the form of dance training. I studied movement, body awareness, muscle memory, group awareness, spatial awareness, breath work and being present through learning ballet, tap, jazz, African, and modern dance. As I learn more about the Eastern inspired forms of mindfulness that are being practiced and taught in America, I see parallels and connections to the training I received as a young dancer.
I am also deeply affected by music. I have found much of my spiritual guidance in music that rocks my body and moves my soul. (For a taste, check out Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad: “Glide,” and “Body Song,” or Chwoniso, “Listen to the Breeze.” Over my life, there have been many moments of mindfulness ignited by live music and dancing. Moments in which I lose track of time, lose track of my stories that I am always telling, and just notice how the bass is vibrating my internal organs, and how my body needs to move, how the energy is flowing back and forth from the audience to the crowd. Sometimes I think the musicians look wild, and I appreciate that they are opening themselves up, completely, to the music, to let the music come through them. I often get inspired in my writing, teaching practice, or visual arts when I experience live music, and the gift that the musicians give when they play.
I am trying now to incorporate more “sitting” meditation. I sit quietly, with a “mindful body,” and focus on something. Sometimes I focus on my belly expanding and contracting, sometimes on the air as it enters and leaves my nostrils, sometimes on the sounds I can hear, or on the front of my face. I also practice the Star Meditation that I began to learn in the sanctuary at Omega. This form of meditation is particularly helpful in calming me, and helping me to sit for longer. It incorporates a body scan, and has helped me achieve tangible relaxation and “feeling good” benefits. (to learn more about this meditation, and the teacher from whom I learned it, see http://star-energy-healing.com/jon-terrell.html).
I also practice “short moments of awareness repeated many times.” (I got this phrase from Iamani and Chris of the Mind Body Awareness Project, at the conference on Mindfulness in Education at the Omega Institute this August.) I notice how I am feeling as I sit at my desk, or lay in my bed, or talk to my partner. I notice and appreciate moments of aesthetic rapture when I see a spider web glistening with rain, or the light of the sunset pouring into the old wavy glass of my windows. I stop to breathe and quiet my mind for a moment when I notice my tension rising. I look into my friends’ eyes. I intentionally focus my thoughts as I listen to someone speaking.
Today I sat for over an hour in City Hall Park as part of a Meditate for Peace and to End Greed protest that accompanied and balanced the march against Wall Street today. I will admit that sitting for over an hour is the longest sitting I have ever attempted, and it was difficult. I used a variety of techniques for shorter segments, and mindfully sipped warm tea when I got too cold in the damp dreary day.
I will continue to practice a variety of mindfulness techniques. I will post some of my experiences, and interesting things I find as I research what other have said. On that note, I have found a “Tree of Contemplative Practices,” which I am intrigued and inspired by. You can find it at: http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree.html.